Here are the facts.
1. On Aug. 14, Fox Sports Australia and The Mirror reported Ryan Lochte had been held up at gunpoint at a party in Brazil.
2. The Director of Communication for the IOC, Mark Adams, said the swimmer’s story was not true.
3. Rio police began to investigate the accusations and found no proof that a robbery ever happened.
4. Brazilian authorities pulled two US swimmers off of a flight out of Rio (Lochte had already made his way back to the states) to answer questions about what really took place.
5. Lochte doubled down on his story, changing some key details along the way.
6. ABC finally reported that the robbery-at-gunpoint never actually happened and instead “one of the swimmers was seen on CCTV footage breaking down the door to the bathroom at the gas station and fighting with a security guard.”
7. Lochte stated he “over-exaggerated” his story and that he was “immature.”
8. Ryan Lochte, Olympic gold-medalist with the hair of a Bond villain, is an idiot.
Over the past few weeks, the Ryan Lochte saga has somehow become as big as the Olympics. With ebbs and flows that rival that of a Mexican soap opera, finding out what actually happened on the night of Aug. 13 became the prevailing story for American news networks.
With all this coverage, however, it seems the main response by the media and general public is to just make fun of Lochte through memes and jokes. When the story broke, not enough was made of the fact this man caused an international incident with outright lies. In fact, many are defending Lochte by trying to sweep this story under the rug.
“Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you take actions that you later regret. They are magnificent athletes,” Mario Andrada, Communications Director for Rio 2016 said. “Lochte is one of the best swimmers of all time. They had fun. They made a mistake. It’s part of life. Life goes on. Let’s go.”
What makes this imprudent response so blasphemous and unfathomable is the response to another “mistake” by an American Olympian.
Gabby Douglas, a U.S. gymnast, was recently attacked for how she stood during the Star-Spangled Banner at her medal ceremony. “The next time Gabby Douglas stands on a podium for the national anthem, she can forget the words, disagree with them, protest them,” said Bill Plaschke, a Los Angeles Times writer. “But here’s hoping she never again ignores the weight of their meaning.”
This response is remarkable in how absurd it is.
The immediate take by the media and Twitter users with eggs as avatars was that an athlete should act “how it should be done.” This often sparks an angrier response than when someone actually does something worth being upset about.
This brings up the still-fundamental debate on race and the response to athletes of different colors in the spotlight. Phelps, in these same Rio Olympics, was laughing during the anthem yet his actions were dismissed as simply “emotional.”
There’s a distinct clash in the reaction regarding the race of the athlete.
Lochte comes off as a goofball and oaf who just made a wrong decision, while Gabby Douglas is seen as unpatriotic. Ryan Lochte is white. Gabby Douglas is black. If you don’t think race has anything to do with this, you’re either blissfully oblivious or willfully ignorant.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic, often writes about the concept of being twice as good. “All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to ‘be twice as good,’ which is to say ‘accept half as much,’” Coates wrote in his book “Between the World and Me.” “These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket.”
Unexpectedly, these Olympics have given even more credence to Coates’ idea. This story is important, just not for the reasons that everyone expects. Ryan Lochte’s idiocy has given us a glimpse into the racism and biases that are still dominant in our society.
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